A tweet posted earlier today on the SA Government’s official account has had the country in a spin as it declared that the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes “will remain in place throughout the lockdown period”.
The tweet, which was seemingly the first direct communication from government on the “prohibition of sales” and how long the bans will remain in place, caused widespread outrage and has since been clarified.
The tweet has also been deleted.
In two followup tweets, government stated: “This account posted a tweet earlier today which said that the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes would remain in place throughout the lockdown period. This is incorrect. The sale of alcohol and tobacco products is prohibited under the current Level 3 regulations.
“This decision may be reviewed at any time by the relevant structures should the conditions which necessitated it change. We regret any confusion the tweet has caused.”
When tobacco products were banned at the beginning of the lockdown, an initial return was indicated as Level 3. The subsequent U-turn on this promise has been fiercely challenged in court by several entities, including the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita).
When alcohol sales were suspended again this month, no clear indication was given on its return. However, a report by the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC), which was in favour of the liquor ban, indicated that the current prohibition could last for at least eight weeks, supporting the assertion that sales would be allowed in Level 3 once the virus infection peaks had passed.
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, before government clarified its stance, Fita came out swinging, saying government needs to “immediately clarify” the tweet.
“This statement contradicts government’s previous position on this issue, with inter alia President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Jackson Mthembu both stating on a number of occasions publicly that it was only a matter of time before the ban on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products was lifted…
“The statement issued today by government creates the impression that government has no intention of lifting the ban on the sale of cigarettes under any level during the lockdown period.
“That position of course will have severe consequences for the fiscus, the industry as a whole, and all those who make a living from the industry. We therefore call upon government to urgently clarify its position on this issue.”
South African Twitter was not kind in their response either:
Every Minister should be required to live on R350 per month and donate the rest of their salaries to a fund for all the people who have been forced to lose their jobs or stop working due to THEIR lockdown rules.
— ThinkeringThoughts (@judyjudes18) July 22, 2020
The tweet is targeted harassment of employees in the alcahol and tobacco industry. I have reported it as such. I will fight this draconian, bigoted excuse for a government every way I can.
— Sithlord Resistance (@sithlord645) July 22, 2020
What’s wrong with Carling Black Label? pic.twitter.com/zKjYFJrKXz
— Clay???????? (@clayton_george1) July 22, 2020